Grill Master's Blog

How Long to Smoke a Chicken

Does the thought of smoking a whole chicken make you a little nervous? Smoking a whole chicken can result in a really tender and flavorful bird. While you will have to set aside a few hours, the process itself is fun and rewarding.

There are varying factors that need to be considered to achieve the end result that you are looking for. Here are some of the elements of smoking that you will want to address:


Let's take a closer look at each of these elements.

Smokers

To smoke a whole chicken you will need a smoker that is large enough to hold the bird. An outdoor smoker makes sense for this. Trying to smoke a whole bird on a stovetop model probably isn’t going to work very well.

If you already have a smoker, that is great and you can browse down to the next section. If not, the two types of smokers we like are the smaller vertical charcoal types and the portable horizontal charcoal smoker/grill combinations. Here are two examples of well-priced charcoal smokers for backyard or patio use.

The vertical Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker 18-Inch Charcoal Smoker is made of porcelain-enameled steel with heat resistant nylon handles. It has 2 nickel-plated 18-1/2 inch diameter cooking grates for layering, a water pan, thermometer, vents, and a storage cover. This model comes with a 10 year warranty.

The horizontal PK Grills, Charcoal Grill Smoker Combo, Silver PK99740 is a detachable rolling unit made of thick cast aluminum. It has vents and dampers for temperature control and a hinged cooking grid. There is some assembly required for this lightweight model.

Wood Chips

The type of wood to use for smoking a chicken depends on the flavor you prefer, as the bird is going to soak up the flavor that the particular wood gives off in smoke. Many smoker aficionados recommend either fruit or nut tree woods. Favorites are apple wood, cherry, and pecan.

If you are relying on your local market or home center for your chips, you might have to settle for whatever they have in stock. Wood chips generally come in small bags or tin pans. Hickory is fairly common in stores like Lowes.

Buy enough to fill the smoker box or a foil packet that you can drop onto the coals. 2 to 3 handfuls of chips should be adequate. Here is a video that describes a little bit about how to buy wood chips.

Size of the Bird

How much time do you have and how many people are you feeding? A 4 pound chicken will take 2 to 3 hours of smoking and will feed 4 to 6 people. A larger bird could require up to 5 hours of smoking.

When you are at the market, or your butcher shop, ask the clerk to recommend the appropriate size bird for the number of people you want to feed. Remember, you are buying bones as well as meat, so be mindful that 1 pound of raw whole chicken will cook down to approximately 1 cup of meat. Check out this useful chart at recipetips.com.

Should You Brine or Dry Rub

We recommend doing both. To ensure that your meat stays moist, soak it in a brining solution. This will add time to preparation, as you need to do this well in advance of smoking.

Here is a good brine technique/recipe.

Ingredients

6 cups of water
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsps whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves smashed

4 cups of ice cubes

Directions

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the broth, salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat and add the ice cubes to cool to room temperature.

Make sure it is cool. Then, place the chicken in the pot to cover with brine, breast-side down, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and place it back in the refrigerator, preferably on a rack in a roasting pan, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. The idea is to allow air to circulate and dry the skin out so that it will crisp while smoking.

I am inserting a step here that is critical for the smoke to work optimally. Right before you take the chicken out of the refrigerator, soak your wood chips in water. The package will have directions, but it is really just as simple as placing them in a bowl of tap water.

Before smoking the bird, rub it all over with a little olive. This will help the herbs to adhere. Then, rub it inside and out with a blend of dry seasonings, such as sage, thyme, paprika, and lemon pepper.

Or, you can just as easily use a store bought poultry seasoning or barbeque dry rub mix. You don’t need to add salt, as it is already brined with salt. Let the bird sit out and come to almost room temperature, maybe 30 to 60 minutes.

Time to Smoke

Well, you are now about 3 to 5 hours into the process. Admittedly, most of that time has been spent doing something other than tending to your chicken.

I would think a game day is perfect for smoking. You can watch your favorite team play while letting the poultry rest and cook. Use commercials as the time to get up and tend to each task.

Heat up your charcoal using a charcoal chimney (lighting fluid will ruin the taste). Prepare a foil packet of the drained wood chips with some holes poked into it to allow the smoke to escape. Or, use the wood chip box that may have been included with your smoker.

When the coals are white hot and the smoker temperature registers at 275 to 325˚ F, drop your foil packet or wood chip box on top of the coals. Place a drip pan on a lower grill above the coals. Insert your upper grill, and place the chicken, breast side up, on that.

Smoke until the breast temperature reaches 160˚ F and the thigh reaches 170˚ F. This will take from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Here is a recipe from Bobby Flay that you might find helpful.

Bottom Line

If you love to grill outside, you might also enjoy trying your hand at smoking. It takes some time to do, but the results may be surprisingly great. There are many affordable smokers for the home cook, as linked to above.

Use our checklist in the introduction to get you started. Please feel free to let us know if this information was helpful. Most importantly, enjoy your adventure.

 

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How to Truss a Chicken for Grilling or Roasting Like a Pro

 

Do you have an idea why do pro chefs and cooks truss a chicken? Do you ask yourself why do we need to bind a chicken and do all that criss-crossing motion with a twine? Chefs and cooks in professional kitchens truss a chicken or turkey to maintain its shape together better and for the bird to cook more evenly. In addition to that, it makes for a nicer looking bird and one that is easier to carve.

 

 Trussing a Chicken 101

A bird can be trussed whether you are going to stuff it or not. However, it is probably best not to truss chicken, as it is smaller in size and will most likely maintain its shape. This way, the lighter and darker meats will cook more evenly. On the other hand, with a larger bird, such as a turkey, it is better to truss it. If you do intend on stuffing the bird, make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand and then insert the stuffing into the cavities before you actually truss the bird. Trussing will ensure that the stuffing does not fall out during cooking. 


There are plenty of ways people truss a bird, and some get rather complicated! To me, this way is the easiest! We are going to demonstrate it on a chicken, you can do the same method on a turkey or a bigger bird. But do remember, this is just a basic step-by-step guide. Do what feels right for you, you may find it easier to tie if you wrap the twine around the feet several times. You are basically just trying to tighten it all together, so use this as a guide and adapt a method that works for yourself.


For you to start you'll, get some twine and cut about two arm's length long and get some water on a bowl to soak it in; set it aside. While that is soaking, rinse the bird well, inside and out, and set it in the roasting pan, or on a tray or platter to avoid transferring any juices to your cutting board or counter top. Pat dry with paper towels until the chicken is thoroughly dried. Season the inside cavity with desired herbs and aromatics.

How to Truss a Chicken
Chicken on Cutting Board

 

 Let’s get trussing!

1. Before trussing a chicken, the chicken wings need to be removed remove its wings. With the use of a sharp knife, cut the wings between the joint where they meet the chicken's arms. Make sure to really feel for the spot between the joints as you shouldn't feel any resistance, your knife should separate the wings with ease. Save those wings for a later recipe, or for some chicken broth. If you're not a stickler for presentation you can leave the wings intact and proceed as follows

 

2. To make carving easier, the wishbone can be removed by cutting it out with a sharp narrow-bladed knife, before you are ready to truss the bird, although again, this is entirely optional. To remove the wishbone, run your fingers along the breast until you find the bone. Then, using the knife, cut along the top edge and along both sides of the wishbone. Gently hold the wishbone with your fingers and pull it free from the bird.

 

3. For trussing, use a string that is approximately 4 to 5 times the length of the chicken. With the bird on its back (tail away from you), place the middle of the string under the tail, bring both sides up and cross over the top of the tail. Wrap each the strings around the end of each drumstick and pull to draw the legs together, crossing strings over each other again.

 

4. Flip the bird over so the backside is up, with neck away from you. Pull strings up over the thighs and wrapping around the upper wings, catching the tips of the wings in the loop. The string is wrapped around the wing, close to the body and then both ends are brought to the upper side. If there is a flap of skin at the neck, it is folded up and the two strings are tied over it.

 

5. A chicken does not have to be trussed before it is roasted. When a chicken is trussed you may encounter a problem with the white and dark meat obtaining the proper doneness. It takes longer for the dark meat in the inner thigh area to reach its proper doneness when it is trussed, which should be 175°F to 180°F. When the dark meat is cooked until it reaches the appropriate temperature, the white meat will many times be too dry. If it is important that the bird keeps its shape while roasting, it is best to truss it. If it isn't important that it to keeps its shape, it is generally better not to truss the chicken, because the white and dark meat will cook more evenly.

 

6. Do not forget to remove all trussing before you are ready to serve.

 

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Kabobs, Makes Grilling Enjoyable

Kabob tool set.

 

Kabob for better grilling.

Instead of throwing a piece of meat or fish on the grill, consider Kabobs. Why? Kabobs are easy for your family and friends to eat with one hand at a casual barbecue, but elegant enough for a more formal dinner of barbecue. Served as an appetizer or main course, they are infallible to please the crowds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Using Kabobs

The Kabobs are not only perfect in making your BBQ, but they are also affordable and easy to prepare. You may choose seasonal vegetables or stand-in to basic vegetables such as onions, mushrooms and peppers. If you're feeling daring, try pineapples! This fruit is delicious when accompanying meat such as chicken.

You can use this metal skewers or soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to an hour, then put on the ingredients, and pop the skewers on a grill. Thread mushrooms on two skewers so they can flip and rotate each time you turn on the grill.

Giving that artisan character is the concept of Kabobs compared to those that are made with other grilling sets. For example, when a piece of meat or vegetable in the product tray is too small, it results in an odd asymmetry with machines, whereas Kabobs holds always the center of the meat and vegetables in the place.

You get what you pay for. The common problem with other devices is that many foods come out either badly shaped or incomplete. These mistakes are generally detected after production and would then have to be reprocessed again. With Kabobs, there is only a smaller chance of mishaps.

For instance, only a limited working space is available. It is not a problem with Kabobs as it only requires much less space and is set up and moved more easily than others.

 

 

Tips on preparing your Kabobs

1. Meats, fruits and vegetables should be cut into 1-inch cubes thick. This allows ingredients to cook more evenly.

2. If you use minced meat, do not put too much because it may detach while cooking. By your Kabob in the refrigerator two hours before cooking, you will enable any seasoning not only to penetrate the meat well, but it will also help the meat to hold up well.

3. If you use metal skewers, take precautions as they will be extremely hot. Use your BBQ tongs to turn it, or buy a basket metal skewers.

4. If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak at least 30 minutes before cooking time. This will prevent them from burning.

5. For maximum flavor, marinate the meat try for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight. Although you can use any remaining sauce to baste meat, it is suggest you double the amount of marinade and serve one of the marinade for basting the meat pots and reserve the other, which has not been in contact with raw meat, for dipping.

6. Meat is best sealed with Kabobs, otherwise it will start to separate during cooking.

7. Make sure all the extra ingredients - such as onions, garlic, and fresh herbs - are finely ground before being added to the ground beef.

8. Mix ground beef with the additional ingredients with your hands until combined. Be careful of too much meat.

9. Wet your hands and form the beef balls. After about six or seven bullets per pound of meat.

10. Throw the balls into elongated strands.

11. Thread the meat onto stainless steel skewers. If you only have a thin skewers, thread the meat onto two parallel skewers placed about 1/4 inch apart. Leave an inch or two between the meatballs for even cooking.

12. Press firmly meat on the Kabobs with your fingers. Seal meat well at each end of the oblong ball with your thumb and forefinger.

13. Cook on the grill according to the recipe, turning frequently to ensure even cooking. Carefully turn it to prevent the meat from falling. If the meat is starting to loosen, press back into place with your fingers.

Recipe ideas to grill with Kabobs

a. Grilled Chicken Skewers and Tofu over Rice Pilaf Grilled Tofu

b. Chicken Skewers with Apples and Bacon Skewers

c. Chicken Kebabs Gin and Tonic Water with Mint Tabouleh

d. Chicken Yakitori with Hot Carrot Salad

e. Skewered Chicken Insalata Caprese

f. Chicken Kebabs with Mesclun Lettuce and Lemon Yogurt and Walnuts

g. Chicken Kebabs with Egyptian Potato Salad

h. Chicken Skewers and Indian Mango Salsa Skewers

i. Grilled Black Pepper Chicken & Tofu with Lemon Dipping Sauce


 

 

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BBQ Pictures and Infographics by Cave Tools

Check out These Cool BBQ Infographic Pictures 

 

 

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A Real Pit Master Needs A Barrel Grill, So Let’s Make One

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You know what’s even better than grilling on a pile of hot coals under the sun with friends and family? The answer is doing all that, but on a barrel grill you handcrafted yourself.

I’d never even considered trying to build my own grill before but having read articles about homemade barrel grills and how much fun was to be had not just creating my own DIY masterpiece, but also achieving the amazing tastes that come with classics like pork barrel bbq, I’ve decided to give it a shot.

I consider myself a DIY handy person. I don’t shy away from picking up the tape measure and grinder when needed, so this is something that I’m really looking forward to sinking my saw’s teeth into!

So what’s needed to create the greatest portable outdoor grill experience?

First off, you’re going to need a 55 gallon metal barrel which are actually a lot easier to get hold of than you might have expected (http://ebay.to/1blBqDd)

Now for the base, it’s time to get creative. For me, I will be using some old plywood that I have in the garage around with some steel foundation poles that have been laying round the back of the house for longer than I’d like to admit- I knew they’d come in handy!

In truth, your own judgement will be the best way to decide what’s going to be best for your homemade barrel grills. There’s no need to go out and buy expensive materials if you’ve got something laying around out back that does the job well enough.

Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Small grinder
  • Drill with drill-piece that is safe for drilling through metal
  • Nuts, washers and bolts (be sure to check that they’re the right size in accord with the size of the holes you’ll be drilling into the metal framework)
  • (If you’re using wood) saw, jigsaw and 4 U bolts matching the size of the metal framework
  • 2 stainless steel hinges
  • Stainless steel grill shelves ( same length as the width of your barrel)

Step 1

We’re going to start by creating the opening in the barrel. I’ve seen a couple of different ways of doing this but in my opinion, I want to try and keep as much of the barrel intact so that there is no strength lost and less chance of it flexing during transportation.

 

Photo attribution Pinterest.com

If you take the barrel so it’s resting on one of the circular ends, you can mark out one quarter of the circumference and then using a spirit level, mark along the body of the barrel in correspondence to where your marking are. This way, you can see how much of the metal you’re going to grind off in order to make an opening.

Using a grinder, carefully and slowly work along the markings until you’ve lost a quarter of the barrel’s body like in the picture above.

Next, you’re going to have to give it a good scrub. Don’t hold back and make sure you get in everywhere. A deep soapy clean is needed just to take out anything nasty hidden in there. As long as the surface is clean that’s good enough for now, after the build is done, we’ll be creating a fire in there anyway to burn off any lurking hazards.

Step 2

Now we need to create the stand. This is where you’ll have to get imaginative as there’s a few different ways of doing this and your materials will ultimately dictate the stand that you end up with.

This is the stand I’ve decided to go for. It’s simple but sturdy; great for weekend getaways as the wood doesn’t have as much weight as it would if was using more metal.

Photo attribution: Instructables.com

If you haven’t got any wood to act as support, then metal poles or strips are just as good.

The main thing is to have 2x poles that are just slightly longer than the length of the barrel and then 4x poles that are around a meter long; unless the chief griller is either a little shorter or a little taller. If this is the case, then choose the length of the legs wisely. Then you’ll need two support trusses to keep the legs together if you’re not using wood. If you are using wood, then don’t worry about this for now, we’ll get on to that part shortly.

The poles are attached to one another with a long bolt through, then washer and finally bolt. Drill carefully into the metal and always use a cobalt or titanium drill bit to ensure you don’t break your drill. The barrel supporting poles go on the inside of the legs, right at the top.

Be sure to measure and then measure again the width of the barrel before you cut any poles or wood to hold the two uprights together. If you’re using poles to connect the two, then attach the connecting poles across about halfway down the legs.

If you’re using wood, then you’ll need the jigsaw in order to cut holes like in the picture above for the poles to slide into. The wood can be slid up the poles from underneath and then rested on u bolts brackets so that they don’t move around and ensure the whole structure is solid.

Step 3

Now we’re going to be drilling and setting the holes for the grill grates as well as the hinges for the lid. Using the same drill as you did for the poles, carefully go about drilling and making holes like in the picture below that makes a much better job of instructing than I ever could with words!

 

Photo attribution: Instructables.com

 

Step 4

Now it’s time to sit the empty barrel on top of your frame and make sure your measurements and cuts were correct. Also, test the stability of the frame with a little weight in the barrel and a rock on all four legs to make sure that your great outdoor grill isn’t going anywhere once grilling classic outdoor grilling recipes.

Once everything seems sturdy enough and you’re happy with how it feels, it’s time to burn out the insides of the barrel by lighting a fire with some charcoal on the insides. Be sure to let that burn out fully as you’ll be getting rid of any still-existing toxins that are definitely not welcomed once you start cooking on your homemade barrel grill!

Step 5

Finally, the last bit! This bit is the cool bit too. Now you can paint the grill to whatever you want. Just be sure to use a high heat resistant paint otherwise it won’t last very long once you get the grill grilling in your outside barrel grill!

And that’s it! Now that you’ve got yourself an awesome outdoor barrel grill, you’re set for your pit master style grill up!

Be sure to get the beers on ice nice and early, and don’t forget to invite lots of people over to christen your backyard barbecue beast!

 

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Are Cave Tools Products Made in the USA or China?

This is a question we get a lot from our customers so I wanted to address it here on the blog.

Many people take a strong stance that they only want to support American Made products. We support this stance 100% but also want you to know that there are more pieces to the puzzle.

When I started Cave Tools in 2013, the first product we launched was a grill brush. I took my designs to 6 different manufacturers in the US because I wanted Cave Tools to be completely made in the USA. What I found out was nobody could produce our grill brush according to our specifications, let alone produce it within even a reasonable dollar amount compared to China.

So we ended up going to China to manufacture our grill brush. Not because of profit envy and cost cutting, but because we had to. Whether we like it or not, when it comes time for the average consumer to pull out there credit card, a $3-4 price difference on a comparable product outweighs for most people the benefit of supporting American Made Products. That’s just the way it is.

But Manufacturing Is Only 1 Small Piece of the Business

Since starting Cave Tools in 2013, we have gone on to hire US based accountants and lawyers. We’ve also had 4 college interns (2 from Penn State, my alma matter ;) work for us and learn core marketing skills. Skills they used to go on and get American based jobs with. We’re constantly adding to our team and expect to employ many more Americans in the future!

If we never started manufacturing overseas, we never would have been able to grow and help support so many more US based people. It wouldn’t have been possible.

We also never would have gotten to the point where we are able to make our charcoal grills 100% in the USA. Even down to the tiny little pieces of rubber which are also sourced domestically.

So yes, some of our products are manufactured in China, but some of our other products are also made in the USA. And we’ll continue to put our best efforts forward to ensure as many of our products as possible can be made in the USA.

We don’t want to hide it. In fact, we’re glad that China has provided us the opportunity to help support and employ so many Americans as our business continues to grow.

We Want To Hear From You

So that’s my opinion on the issue. But we don’t want this to be a one way conversation. We have grown and improved so much over the years based on the feedback from our customers.

If you have an opinion on the subject we would love to hear it! I encourage you to please leave a comment below so we can make this an open discussion.

Cheers,

Michael “Medium Rare” O’Donnell

Cave Tools - Owner

 

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It’s Almost Spring… Time to Brush the Snow Off the Grill

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Friday the 20th marks official start of spring. While many of the country is still waking up and opening the curtains to find the “white sea” outside, some of the more fortunately located folks of across the nation are enjoying another beautiful day on the horizon of spring.

For all the unfortunate souls stuck beneath the snow, we have come to support you in your time of need. We’ve put together our top cold-weather grill-out tips so that you can continue to enjoy the sweet taste of grilled food, come rain, wind or shine.

 

Temperature

Whether you’re using gas or charcoal to grill or even to smoke, it’s vital to maintain a consistent temperature at all times. A fluctuating internal and external temperature drastically alters the way in which your food cooks. For this reason it’s important to keep regularly check the internal temperature of your grill.

On a “nice” day, your grill could be sat in the sun with a temperature of around 110 degrees without even having any fire combusting in the chamber. If this is the case, to reach optimal cooking temperature you would only have to increase the heat by around 190 to reach a smoker’s optimal temperature of about 290 degrees.

On the other hand, if the temperature is cold, you’re really going to have to ramp up the heat in order to get to an optimal temperature. If you’re using a gas grill, it’s fairly simple and usually turning up the heat via the appropriate dials is enough. However, if you’re using charcoal you’re going to have to allow a little more time and briquettes.

It goes without saying, but always keep the grill lid down! we’re all partial to a blonde moment every now and then…

 

Wind

When grilling in wind, always keep your grill at a 90 degree angle in order to reduce the wind making contact with the hot exterior and cooling it down from outside.

Those with smokers are bound to have the hardest time because of the need of internal air circulation. Too much wind coming in can turn up the heat a little too far and smoke the foods too fast. In contrast, blocking the air completely will only put out the smoke as the constant oxygen flow in convection is essential. Always keep one eye on the direction of the wind and have the wind flow into the vents that you would usually use. Being a little hotter on the inside may not be a problem in colder weather as the external temperature will bring the temperature down.

The ideal place to set up the grill (if possible) is obviously somewhere that is protected from the wind. If you do end up moving the grill or smoker somewhere new to grill, be sure that the area isn’t too enclosed as charcoal produces carbon monoxide while being burnt.

Rain

Rain creates a whole new problem altogether for grill’ers. Not only does rain usually bring along at least a little wind and in some cases for our colder friends- snow; but in addition to these elements, the rain evaporating on the heat of the grill or smoker’s casing will slowly draw out heat.

The biggest concern of yours should be keeping the food dry. Wrap up to keep yourself nice and dry and remember to keep the lid closed. When transporting food into the house, grab an umbrella to hold over the food. Have a hot plate warming in the oven to use to transport foods so that the outside temperature doesn’t bring the temperature of your cooked foods down too much.

Never let the cold weather stop you from doing anything you love. From grilling to fishing to shopping; getting outside and sticking it to the cold weather should always be a priority. It’s important not to let the weather dictate our lives too much. But obviously if your house is snowed in like many people are right now, then you’re allowed a little slack!

 

 

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